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Beard chief pleads guilty, looks at maximum 15 years

Leonard F Pickell Jr, the James Beard Foundation’s ex-president, could face a sentence of 5 to 15 years, after pleading guilty to stealing more than $50,000 from the organisation.

When New York State Supreme Court sentences Pickell, 50, for grand larceny in March, he could get a maximum term of 5 to 15 years.

According to The New York Times, the state attorney general’s office said Pickell had admitted writing foundation checks to cover personal credit card debts, stealing petty cash and forging documents used to claim reimbursement of expenses, between 1995 and March 2004

Pickell became president in 1994. He quit in September after an audit discovered that he had mishandled hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The nonprofit foundation promotes the interests of American food and chefs, and holds an annual gala ceremony at which it gives awards to chefs, wine professionals and writers.

Most of its money derives from US$150 dinners at its brownstone headquarters in Greenwich Village, once occupied by the late James Beard, a chef and author.

Last September last year, The Times reported that while the organization received US$4. 7 million in revenues in 2003, it dispensed merely US$29,500 of its own money for scholarships, which the foundation says is central to its mission.

Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York

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